Welcome to the 20-21 school year during a pandemic. What a crazy time!! This is my 3rd year as the Schenevus Superintendent, and for the past two years there have been many ups and down and twists and turns involving our financial situation. I am proud of the financial accomplishments we have made to try to save as much money as possible while trying to preserve program. While I have learned so much these past two years about state aid and the inequities in foundation aid formulas and how small rural schools are funded, it frustrates me to know that there is nothing being done by the state to fix this problem. The divide between larger, more property-wealthy NYS schools and small rural schools in high poverty areas is growing larger, as funding for small rural schools continues to decline. Since March, COVID has turned a lot of our attention away from this issue, and towards working hard every day to make our school as safe as possible with in-person learning available as often as possible. I am proud of our staff and all the hard work they are doing, daily, to try to make life as normal as possible for our students. I am equally proud of our students for learning how to work around the many obstacles they face trying to get an education. I realize that the frustrations are heightened during this time as life right now is far from normal. Despite this, our students, staff, and parents have done a great job of being flexible and learning ways to best educate students during this time.
I want to make sure we do not lose sight of one of the solutions available to our district to help keep programs rich, and taxes low. This solution is that of a merger. We have just completed a merger study with Worcester Central School district and are awaiting approval by the state to continue the process. In January 2021, both Boards of Education will meet for a workshop where the consultants will present the detailed merger study report. This report will detail the benefits of combining both districts. There are two types of mergers in New York state: centralization, and annexation. This study looked at an annexation merger where Worcester remains and annexes Schenevus. The end result will be a reconfigured district which now includes all of the students, staff and properties from both districts. The next step involves both Boards of Education voting to see if the process continues or stops. Both boards will need to vote positively for the process to continue and move out to the communities to decide. If either or both boards vote no, the process stops and the opportunity to merge these two districts is over. This first vote will take place in June 2021. If the vote is positive in both districts, the next vote will be a community vote in September 2021, with a final vote in December 2021. Both the September and December community votes must be positive for the districts to be merged. There is the potential to preserve and increase program opportunities for our students as well as the potential to lower taxes in both communities. The merger incentive aid from NYS will total almost 11 million dollars. There are other financial incentives to merging such as more building aid, and savings due to combining staff and students. The cost of a Superintendent can also be a savings as a merged district does not need two Superintendents. I encourage everyone to learn more about the benefits of merging these two districts. Please take the time to attend merger information meetings that will be scheduled regularly over the next 10 months. I am always available to answer questions about anything related to our district, including the merger study.
We have a long road ahead of us and it is so important that our community is involved in the process, moving forward, as we investigate our options as a district. I am very fortunate to work with an amazing staff who always puts the needs of students first. We are also lucky, as a district, to have such a dedicated Board of Education. I have worked many hours with our board as they seek understanding regarding all our options and ways in which we can support Schenevus. I continue to encourage you to learn all you can about the options that exist for Schenevus by attending board of education meetings, asking questions of those who are involved in the process and meeting with me any time you need answers to your questions.
I wish you and your student the best of luck during this 20-21 school year and always.